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August 1, 2010

Disciplinary Actions
Prepared by The Florida Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services Department

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 21 attorneys, disbarring six and suspending nine. Some attorneys received more than one form of discipline. Seven attorneys were publicly reprimanded and four were placed on probation. Four were ordered to pay restitution.

The following lawyers are disciplined:

Leo Becerra, Jr., 6780 Coral Way, Miami, suspended until further order, following a May 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) According to a petition for emergency suspension, there was clear, convincing evidence that Becerra misappropriated and/or diverted client funds. (Case No. SC10-947)

Kathleen M. P. Davis, P.O. Box 542796, Greenacres, to be publicly reprimanded and placed on probation for one year following a March 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Further, Davis shall pay restitution of $15,000 to three clients. After accepting retainer fees from clients in two separate family law cases, Davis failed to diligently pursue the cases. (Case No. SC09-1979)

Jose Miguel De la O, P.O. Box 347106, Coral Gables, disbarred on consent, effective 30 days from a May 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1986) De la O failed to use client funds as instructed by his clients. He also failed to preserve and apply client funds in accordance with Rules Regulating Trust Accounts. (Case No. SC10- 848)

Gary Elvin Doane, 738 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando, to be publicly reprimanded and placed on probation for one year, effective immediately, following a May 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1977) In advertising his services, Doane used the trade name “Legal Experts,” when he was a sole practitioner who was certified by The Florida Bar in only one area of the law — civil trial. (Case No. SC08-1278)

Michael Sean Foster, 1398 SW 1st St., Miami, suspended for two years, following a May 13 court order. The suspension shall run consecutive to the suspension imposed on October 8, 2009. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Foster accepted representing numerous clients and thereafter failed to communicate with them; failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness; failed to appear at court hearings; charged an excessive fee; refused to respond to the investigative inquiries of The Florida Bar; and refused to participate in the disciplinary process before the grievance committee. (Case No. SC09-2028)

Gary D. Gelch, 1318 SE 2nd Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, to be publicly reprimanded following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Gelch pleaded guilty to failure to competently represent a client and failure to be truthful in representing her case. (Case No. SC10-581)

Joseph Kevin Hall, 5721 S.W. 17th St., Plantation, to be publicly reprimanded and placed on probation for one year, following a May 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) After being retained to provide legal services, Hall failed to communicate with the client. (Case No. SC10-579)

Eric D. Hightower, 2815 Cuyahoga Lane, West Palm Beach, suspended for six months, effective immediately, following an April 15 court order. Three months of the suspension shall run concurrent with his current 30-month suspension and three months shall follow his current 30-month suspension. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Hightower is the subject of three separate Florida Bar discipline matters. He was hired to represent clients, but he failed to timely notify clients and the court of his suspension. (Case No. SC09-1661)

Dwayne Bisford Johnson, Sr., 733 Cypress Drive, Apt. A, Lake Park, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from a May 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1998) Johnson shall pay restitution of $500 to one client. Because of delinquencies of CLE requirements, basic skills course requirements, and Bar fees, Johnson was prohibited from practicing law in Florida from January 31, 2008, through March 13, 2009. Johnson practiced law during that period despite his ineligibility. (Case Nos. SC09-1846 & SC09-1889)

Nicolas Andres Manzini, 169 E. Flagler St., Suite 1500, Miami, disbarred effective 30 days from an April 1 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1978) Manzini is the subject of four separate Florida Bar disciplinary matters. (Case No. SC10-562)

Omar Medina, Jr., 505 S. Magnolia Ave., Tampa, suspended for 90 days, effective June 24, following a May 12 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1989) After the suspension expires, Medina will be placed on probation for three years. Further, Medina shall receive a public reprimand. In one instance Medina signed an attorney’s name to a settlement document without the other attorney’s knowledge or permission. He also failed to tell opposing counsel that the signature for the other attorney was not genuine. In another case, an audit of Medina’s trust account revealed that Medina failed to maintain required trust account records. (Case Nos. SC09-164 & SC09-644)

Joseph Barry Miller, 235 Porto Vecchio Way, Palm Beach Gardens, suspended effective 30 days from a May 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Miller pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, in relation to money obtained as a result of fraudulent mortgages, a felony. (Case No. SC10-942)

Jill Beth Newman, 8615 Indian River Run, Boynton Beach, suspended for two years effective retroactive to May 6, 2009, following an April 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Newman falsely represented that she was holding escrow deposits in her trust account, when, in fact, she had not received or deposited funds. She deposited operating account funds to cover shortages in her trust account; and an audit of Newman’s trust account revealed that multiple deposit slips had no indication for the client or the matter for which the funds were received. Newman’s bank records subpoenaed by the Bar revealed that Newman wrote two checks totaling $20,000, when her operating account was overdrawn by more than $1,700. (Case No. SC-09-37)

Frank T. Noska, P.O. Box 254, Palm Beach, to be publicly reprimanded following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) Further, Noska shall pay restitution of more than $15,000 to three clients. After being retained to handle two separate tax cases, Noska entrusted much of the day-to-day handling of the matters to people who were not licensed Florida attorneys. Noska did not properly supervise the nonlawyers to ensure that deadlines were met and files were properly managed. (Case Nos. SC10-158 & SC10-507)

Natalia V. Poliakova, 2837 S.W. 3rd Ave., Miami, suspended for six months, effective 30 days from a May 20 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Further, Poliakova shall pay restitution of $500 to one client. Poliakova was retained to assist with the filing of an application for lawful permanent residence status (Green Card) for a family. She failed to inform the clients of the denial of the Green Card application and their right to appeal, and she failed to provide timely responses to inquiries from The Florida Bar. Poliakova also knowingly made a false statement of material fact to the grievance committee. (Case No. SC10-160)

Tashi Iana Richards, 7920 N.W. 6th St. Apt. 205, Pembroke Pines, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following a May 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) After accepting a retainer of $5,000 to handle legal issues involving contractor workmanship, code enforcement, and a possible foreclosure, Richards failed to communicate with the client. As a result, the client and her family were harmed by Richards’ failure to act. Richards also failed to respond to a letter sent to her by The Florida Bar regarding the case. (Case No. SC09-2247)

Daniel J. Rose, 323 N.E. 6th Ave., Delray Beach, to be publicly reprimanded following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2001) Rose is the subject of two Florida Bar disciplinary matters. In one instance, a couple authorized their daughter to sign their names on a mortgage note. Rose notarized the signatures, knowing they had not actually signed the document. In another instance, an examination of Rose’s trust account records revealed that he had commingled funds. (Case No. SC10-584)

Vincent Tony Sammarco, P.O. Box 841026, Pembroke Pines, disbarred effective immediately, following an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1983) As an agent for the Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund, Sammarco failed to preserve and issue the Fund’s title insurance forms or conduct real estate closings in a prudent manner. He also failed to properly preserve and disburse funds he held in trust that were to be used to pay off mortgages after real estate closings. (Case No. SC10-635)

Raul Javier Sanchez de Varona, 1320 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 280, Coral Gables, disbarred effective 30 days from an April 15 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1990) Subsequent to a disciplinary resignation in 2004, Sanchez de Varona held himself out as an attorney. He admitted that in November 2009, he signed and transmitted an e-mail designating himself as the “general counsel” for a corporation in which he held an ownership interest. (Case No. SC10-593)

James L. Soule, 7515 W. Oakland Park Blvd. #100, Ft. Lauderdale, suspended for 91 days following a June 3 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Soule is currently suspended, therefore the suspension is effective immediately. In one instance, Soule was retained to handle several civil matters. While representing the client, Soule began handling a financial investment as well. When asked to return the investment funds of $135,000, Soule failed to do so. In another instance, Soule failed to pay the $4,000 balance due in a final judgment. (Case No. SC09-1845)

Cynthia Gaskins Strickland, 2450 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 303B, Hollywood, permanently disbarred effective immediately, following an April 29 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) A preliminary examination of Strickland’s trust account records by The Florida Bar revealed evidence of misappropriation of client funds, as well as a pattern of using recent deposits to cover obligations incurred previously. (Case No. SC09-2009)

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam. Historically, less than 5 percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.

[Revised: 04-28-2017]